Response to the 2010 Curriculum Survey

This month’s edition of Living In-Formation, a monthly e-newsletter sent out by Church Publishing’s Christian Formation Specialist, Sharon Pearson, includes a report based on the results of a recent survey on religious curricula. As a total data geek, I was fascinated by the results.

One of the things that struck me was how many curricula are out there. This was a fairly small sample (290 congregations, most of them Episcopal), and they were using 31 different published youth curricula, with 18 percent—the largest group—writing their own! (For children’s curricula, it was 38 different published and 9 percent created their own.) Over 30 different youth curricula are available and almost 1/5 of all churches still need to come up with their own program? Wow!

When I was a youth minister, I was one of them. Personally, I thought the youth curricula I saw were kind of—oh, let’s just say precious. I gave up fairly quickly looking for a published curriculum and figured I could come up with something better myself. I wanted something that actually looked and sounded like the kids I knew rather than the kids the church wanted them to be. That was my big problem with church curricula—too churchy!

I had to laugh when I saw that Mr. Deity featured prominently as an educational tool, given that secular humanists are also a big fan (as am I). Such a great forum for sparking questions and discussions, and a sign (perhaps) of the resources all around us for curricula.

Of course I was very interested to see where Confirm not Conform ended up in this survey. Only 22 confirmation curricula (only!) were reported being used, with 13 percent using CnC. More notably, 31 percent of respondents write their own confirmation curriculum. Almost 1/3!

The Adult formation piece was also interesting: 2 percent said they were usingCnC Adult, which I think is pretty amazing, given that it was made available in May and the survey was in October. Oddly, there’s no segment for curricula created by the churches even though in most places I know there is some component of Adult formation that is an in-house program.

What was painful reading in the survey was that when it comes to Christian teaching, people seem to be running on fumes. There’s no money in the budget, not enough time to do what needs doing, and not much energy to do it. In the current economic climate, church budgets get cut to the barest of bare bones, and often youth ministry or adult formation—or the people being paid to do them—get the axe. It’s really hard—believe me, I’ve been there. And when it comes to resources, it seems the thing the churches have the least of is time and energy. The hope and the struggle I see in this survey is in the ongoing search to find curricula that will save congregations some of this valuable commodity.

There are clearly church curriculum resources galore. From my perspective, slanted though it may be, the main thing I see is that people want vibrant curricula that engage their members; they want something that won’t take all of their time to adjust to their situation; and they seem to be having trouble finding what they want.

A few years ago, we couldn’t either. CnC would have counted among the 31 percent of home-grown confirmation programs. The reason was the same one I had for writing my own—everything out there seemed a bit precious. (When we were trying to come up with a slogan for CnC, we almost went with “It’s not pukey.”)

I suspect a lot of people who write their own are trying to avoid the “ick” factor. But it does make me wonder: How many great curricula are out there! And how can congregations share them with the wider church?

We’re glad for the opportunity we’ve had to share CnC. We sure do hope that what we have come up with will at least help.